Governor seeks middle ground on Labor Reform amendments

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Monday that he does not agree with the language submitted by the island Legislature regarding amendments to the Labor Reform bill.

He noted in particular that Sunday pay should not exceed time and a half, and that annual vacations should be set at 10 days, while agreeing that the probationary period should be shortened.

During a press conference at La Fortaleza following a legislative conference with the New Progressive Party delegates, Pierluisi said he prefers to seek middle ground with amendments that ensure both good working conditions and fair pay, as well as the welfare of Puerto Rico’s small and midsize businesses.

“I believe we have to strike that right balance. We want more jobs, not fewer jobs. We have been seeing hikes in the prices of products,” Pierluisi said. “They are going to submit amendments and I am going to keep my mind open until the measure that enjoys the support of both the House and the Senate reaches my office.”

“I am in favor of what I have already stated, that there be a reasonable vacation period, that the probationary period not be as long as the current one,” he added. “I did express reservations about paying double time on Sundays because I am concerned about the impact it has on small and midsize businesses on the island.”

The mechanism to be used in the Senate would involve substantial amendments to House Bill (HB) 3, which was passed by the lower chamber on May 1.

The new law would be called the “Law for the Protection and Expansion of Workers’ Rights in Puerto Rico.”

The changes were pushed by Human Rights and Labor Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ana Irma Rivera Lassén, who combined the texts of a bill written by the Citizens Victory Movement Senate delegation, a bill authored by Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. María de Lourdes Santiago and HB 3, which was penned by the Popular Democratic Party delegation in the House.

On Friday, the last day for approval of measures, the Senate approved HB 3, which amends the Labor Reform Law to restore and expand the labor rights of workers.

According to the proponents of the legislation, the proposal before their consideration “reverses the damages caused by this (current) 2017 labor reform, pursuant to a work plan based on two priority areas: (1) to restore and expand the labor rights applicable to male and female employees belonging to private enterprise and (2) to demand that this Legislative Assembly exercise its investigative power, to inquire into the prevailing employment conditions in Puerto Rico and propose new protections for the benefit of the working class.”

As an example, with the new law, any employee who works in excess of eight hours during any 24-hour period or in excess of 40 hours during any week shall be paid at double time and a half, contrary to the provisions of the current law. Likewise, it establishes that any employee who works on Sundays or official holidays will be paid double time, among other amendments.

Likewise, the name of the law would be amended to the “Law for the Protection and Expansion of the Rights of Puerto Rican Workers.”

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